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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

PHOTO BY FACEBOOK


Declaration follows attack by local terrorists on the central Mindanao city of Marawi

 

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte late last night declared Martial Law on the entire island of Mindanao after local terror groups supportive of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) laid seige on the city of Marawi starting yesterday afternoon.

The terrorists, who belong to the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, raided a hospital, raised ISIS flags in the city and claimed Marawi as ISIS territory. They also burned the city’s jail, a Catholic church and a school.

Other cities in Mindanao like Davao and Cagayan de Oro were on high alert following the attack on Marawi, the capital of the central Mindanao province of Lanao Del Sur.




Duterte issued the Martial Law declaration while in Moscow where he was on a four-day visit. Duterte has cut short his visit and is expected to be back in the Philippines today.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was told to stay behind in Moscow to meet with Russian officials and witness the signing of bilateral agreements.

The declaration took effect at 10:00 last night and will last for 60 days.

The Philippine Constitution allows the declaration of Martial Law by the President in case of invasion or rebellion but the status should not last more than 60 days. The President is also required to submit a report to Congress within two days or 48 hours of the declaration of Martial Law as provided by the Constitution.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said even if the clashes between the terrorists and government forces are confined in Marawi, the whole of Mindanao was placed under Martial Law because there were also problems in other parts of Mindanao, which is the Philippines’ second largest island and is home to a majority of Filipino Muslims.

Duterte said in a Facebook Live interview by Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO): “Martial law is martial law. So, to all of you my countrymen, you’ve experienced Martial Law, it would not be any different from what the President Marcos did. I’d be harsh.”

Martial Law during the Marcos regime saw human rights abuses committed against the opposition and militants.

Duterte also said Martial Law in Mindanao would be extended up to a year, if warranted.

Government forces clashed with members of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf. A soldier died in the battle while eight others were wounded. The clashes happened in Barangay Malulut starting 2 p.m. yesterday and raged on until last night.

The terrorists were led by Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was previously based in Basilan island off western Mindanao. The military had claimed that Hapilon was badly injured in an airstrike on his lair in Basilan last year.

Hapilon left Basilan to establish a wilayat or a province of ISIS in Lanao del Sur, according to the Department of National Defense (DND).

Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said the terrorists set fire to the city jail and Dansalan College. A blackout also hit the city and gunfire could be heard in parts of the city.

A city resident took to Facebook and said in a mix of English and Filipino: “We are not okay here. There are buildings on fire in the town and we are not hearing any fire truck sirens or what. And now lights are out and we are hearing
gunshots again. #PrayforMarawi”

The hashtag #PrayForMarawi trended on social media yesterday.

According to Majeed Andong of Kabalikat Civicom, a non-government radio communications group, as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, “power and communication lines were shut down and all exits and entry points to Marawi City are heavily guarded by the elements police and military for possible exit of extremists group.” Andong also said St. Mary’s Church was set afire, aside from Dansalan College and the city jail.

He said there is chaos in the city and residents have remained in the homes as armed men fired their guns in the air.

Meanwhile, Duterte met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin before heading back to the country and explained his sudden return to the Philippines because of the crisis in Marawi City.

According to media reports from Moscow, Duterte offered friendship to Putin and told the Russian leader that the Philippines has “gone beyond the ambit of Western influence”. He also reportedly sought a soft loan after the US cancelled Manila’s weapon purchase from it.

Putin condoled with Duterte and hoped that the Marawi crisis would be resolved with minimal losses. The Russian president promised improved bilateral relations and military cooperation between Russia and the Philippines.

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